Saturday, January 15, 2011

Comic Books that Shaped My Life: The Infinity Guantlet

Thanos wearing the Infinity Gauntlet on the co...Image via WikipediaFor the next few posts, I have decided to return to one of my truest loves and most steady relationships over the past twenty-two years of my life that isn't my asthma inhaler, comic books. Certain comics I've read have shaped my existence as a nerd and as an adult, hooking me like a shark drawn to chum or some other faulty metaphor that I cannot collect the words to piece together at this point in time.

The Infinity Gauntlet was one of the first comic books I ever purchased with my own money. I had comic books before, but I had never really read a book and become completely mesmerized by a single title until I had this one in my hands.

I found the issue, issue number two to be precise, on a spinner rack at the French Creek Marina and Store while my family was on vacation up in Canada. The cover featured a number of characters standing in front of a giant computer console showing the image of missing heroes. The number of characters found on the cover drew me in. I hadn't read issue one. I had no idea who was writing the story. There were lots of characters, and this was way fucking cool to the ten-year-old me.

Little did I know that this would trigger my love of comic books and the love of the cosmic cross-over. The basic premise of the story is thus: Thanos, a death-obsessed being from the planet titan has just acquired six gems that when held together form the infinity gauntlet, a weapon that has the power to reshape reality to the wearer's whim. To appease Death, Thanos then kills off half of the beings in the universe, declares himself a god, and pretty much pisses off all of the other deities in the universe, and makes the super heroes of earth aware that the universe is doomed.

But how do you stop an omniscient mad man? Well, you really don't. And that is the great thing about the story. All the heroes lose, at least for a while. Since the story is twenty years old, I don't think I am spoiling it by giving away most of the story. One of Thanos's arch-enemies a many-times dead-and-resurrected highly evolved human named Adam Warlock has just been re-incarnated, and rallies everyone just to sit back and watch them get their asses handed to them like the spare change you get from buying a candy bar. Wolverine: turned to rubber and ass kicked. Cyclops: head encased in crystal and ass kicked. Captain America...well he was actually the last one to have his ass kicked, but it happened with him getting flicked with  a finger and collapsing into a heap of deadness.

And then a bunch of stuff happens. Thanos eventually loses the Infinity Gauntlet to his niece who tries to pull the same reality shaping goofiness on the universe. And with one of those comic book twists of fate, Thanos has to team up with Adam Warlock to save the universe. Eventually Adam succeeds. And Thanos is left to his own devices on a planet where he lives as a farmer. It is kind of a poetic ending, having been a god, he dwells humbly until the next giant comic cross-over.

So what is it with this book? Why do I have to re-read it every year for the past twenty years and why is it that it is one of the only things that I have still in a plastic bag while everything else I own is stacked up bent and eventually repurposed for collage material? I love the ambiguity of the story. I love a tale where the bad guy is misguided by hubris and driven by obsession rather than a true hatred of the world around him. I love a story with a cast of millions even if in just cameos. The only characters that seemed to be missing from The Infinity Gauntlet were Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy, and I am certain that George Perez tried to sneak them in there somewhere.

I also love that it was the first story that I really wanted to follow through from start to finish. Most comics I had read in the past were done-in-one. I never had to pick up a second issue to figure out what happened next. But with this, I wanted to know how the story continued. Often this is not the case, even with the ongoing sagas I trudge through today.

So as funny as it may seem to my friends who know me now, my first comic love was a Marvel Comic. And Thanos will always be my favorite character.
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